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Janet & Me: An Illustrated Story of Love and Loss Paperback – October 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When cartoonist Mack decided to use a 1980 Greenwich Village bisexual conference as grist for his Village Voice comic strip, he never guessed the globe-trotting freelance writer he met there would become the love of his life. But Janet Bode's magnetism and trademark single earring soon had him under her sway and before he knew it, the two were sharing everything from travel adventures down to a single egg (he ate the white; she ate the yolk). Mack's tale of how his and Bode's easy companionship was derailed by Bode's breast cancer is unique for many reasons, but his improbably moving and downright funny illustrations drive this book right out of the crowded field of cancer memoirs. For instance, directly beneath his description of learning the initial diagnosis in a busy hospital corridor, Mack includes a sketch of the couple reeling in the wake of the rushed, insensitive surgeon. The flabbergasted looks on their faces speak volumes. Drawings of Mack and Bode's friends and caregivers appear alongside brackets containing each one's memories of the cancer's progression and how Bode coped with her increasingly bleak prognosis. This unusual technique gives everyone their own voice and, more importantly, it gives characters—especially Bode—a sense of life. Refreshingly, the dying patient never comes across as faultless; as one friend recalls, "My dear friend was dying and she was still giving me shit."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Cartoonist Mack and YA nonfiction author Janet Bode lived in unmarried bliss for 18 years, the last five clouded by the cancer that killed her. Mack introduces those final years with a two-page synopsis of them and a flash-forward to her memorial and his loneliness thereafter, which eventually led him to create the book. Then he retreats to when Janet first noticed the lump in her breast and tells the long version. She was feisty, funny, and rather in denial about her illness. He was the consummate helpmeet, maybe a bit enabling of her denial. Their love held firm, and they lived as they had, including hiking in far-flung places for recreation. She kept up promotional gigs for her books; confined to the apartment less than a month from death, she dressed for book parties her sister and friends attended for her. Illustrating more than cartooning, keeping vocabulary and syntax beautifully simple, and happily marrying text and drawing on every page, Mack surpasses himself as artist, writer, and designer. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (October 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684872781
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684872780
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,337,309 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By cbgb on September 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is a unique, honest, and bravely told story of powerful emotions, true love, beautiful friendship, and perseverance. The author conveys the wide-ranging emotions of Janet, himself, and those around him without dodging a single one--no matter how hard-hitting, no matter how far out in left field. It's all here--the sadness of course, but also the anger, the humor, the desperation, the sarcasm. It's incredibly real and raw. The illustrations and "comic" style, rather than creating a lighter feel, enrich the story and make it even more accessbile to the reader. At the end, you feel you really know Stan and Janet and you really like them. It left me with a renewed faith in love, friendship, and the power of real human connections.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Monica J. Kern VINE VOICE on May 11, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book describes in both narrative form and cartoons the story of Stan Mack's relationship with his long-time partner, Janet, and how he coped with her illness and subsequent death from cancer. Two primary themes emerged, with the first theme focusing on their love and commitment to each other. You finish the book thinking that they were lucky to have had each other in their lives. Stan's tender and total caregiving of Janet during the terminal phase of her illness was particularly impressive. The second theme concerned the reactions of the medical establishment to terminal disease, and the discomfort medical professionals have in confronting the fact that they will not always be able to cure their patients. One of the most heartrending parts of the book is toward the end, when Stan and Janet try repeatedly, in vain, to contact her physician (who had been wonderfully supportive at the beginning of her treatment) to ask whether her chemotherapy should be discontinued and what could be done instead. It was only when Stan started hospice care that Janet started receiving the home help and other sources of support that she needed to improve the quality of her remaining days.

Indeed, one of the features of this book that cancer patients and their families might find most helpful is that Mack provides a more realistic picture of the day-to-day aspects of caring for a terminally ill loved one. You get the sense that he wants to prevent others the trial-and-error efforts he had to go through to figure out what worked best. A related moral is that persistence is needed in dealing with insurance companies and the medical establishment. Lastly, his is a precautionary tale of the legal difficulties facing unmarried partners.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen A. Baxter on September 24, 2004
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I could barely put it down. It was painful to read, but worth every minute of the pain. Stan Mack is a person anyone would want to have around in a crisis. He is a rock, exhausted but understanding.

I met Janet Bode briefly twice. She approached me because, as she said, "I recognize your hairstyle!" I was bald at the time, having also undergone chemotherapy for breast cancer. We ended up having a long talk, and I was devastated a year and a half later to run into her again, and see that she was bald again. She was beautiful, not just cute.

This is a wonderful book. I am giving a copy to a friend of mine who has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Julia Schopick on December 22, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What makes "Janet and Me" so beautiful is that it combines all of the complex and conflicting elements that are such an important part of being the caregiver to the person who is the love of your life: the tenderness, the fear, the rage, and the anger at a heartless medical system that turns a deaf ear when people are at their most vulnerable. This is, without a doubt, one of THE most touching books about love, loss, caregiving and true friendship that I have ever read. I can't recommend any book more highly! (A shortened version of "Janet and Me" is also contained in the wonderful book on caregiving, "An Uncertain Inheritance," which is also sold on Amazon.com.)

Julia Schopick
[...]
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By Sandra H. Phillips on May 16, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating book, actually most of it drawn up in cartoon form by Stan Mack, a very reknown daily cartoonist for the New York Times Newspaper. I enjoyed it so much, I have carefully wrapped it up, and put away in a safe place, to enjoy once again, Lord willing.It tells you how he and Janet "hooked up" , ending his longtime marriage.She refused his offer to marry, quipping, "If it aint broke, why fix it?" They were such a happy adventurous couple, cartoons of their lives on each and every captivating page! Unfortunately, janet comes down w/breast cancer, and radically loses both breasts, but the cancer had spread.It tells all the gory truth about cancer.I learned so very much reading this book.She was a teen activist, and made her living writing books for them, to advise them of various problems they might incur in life.She was loved by so many people.Stan was so faithful to her...it is heartwrenching, to say the least, at how faithful to her, and how deep his devastation was as she descended into the belly of the Beast we know as Cancer.I could hardly put it down, trust me, this is a great read, and one you will want to place in your "keeper" book section.
Sandra H. Phillips
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